2007 was my first year in college, and I quickly came to discover the music stores had metal sections bigger than the entire selection of the dinky music shops back home. With the amount of music at my fingertips suddenly ballooning, I got to try bands and sub-genres even the Slayer t-shirt crowd in my hometown wouldn’t bother with. One day, after rescuing a newly purchased CD from its shrink-wrap tomb and giving it thirty seconds of play, I turned it off: something I hadn’t done even when I was new to metal and Cannibal Corpse could make me crawl up into the fetal position. Then I hit play and listened to that first thirty seconds again, trying to figure out what the hell had just happened. It wasn’t the first time music had confused me, but it was the first time music had confused and excited me. That moment, that little twenty second bout of being baffled but intrigued, was one of the most important musical moments of my life. It led to years of chasing the dragon, wanting to be knocked on my ass by music that was smarter than me and having to run to keep up. The album was The Hinderers by Daath, the song was Subterfuge and the drummer was Kevin Talley.
Talley has been involved with some legendary acts over the years: Daath, Dying Fetus, Misery Index and Chimaira. Apart from his enormous talents behind the drumset, he shows one of the most important talents a musician can have: working well with great musicians. And now he can add another name to the list of great bands he has contributed to: having performed the drums for groovy progressive metaljers Omega Diatribe’s latest EP, Abstract Ritual, he is a part of another album that gives me that sweet feeling: intrigued, energised and hungry for more.
Talley’s performance is obviously of the standard we have come to expect from the metal legend. But drums are only part of what makes a band tick. Fortunately, Omega Diatribe is awash with talent. This is a band that understands you can’t just chug away on a low string in an odd time signature and call it djent. Not if you want people to listen. Abstract Ritual’s magnetic grooves pull the listener in, giving you something to headbang along to as the mathematical metal works its magic. The riffs have a real pulse, playing with dynamics to ensure that within the complex structure of the music there is an ebb and flow. This focus on groove elevates their djent from the pack. It’s not just math anymore. It’s math that makes you want to move, full of energy and aggression. The vocals are totally in sync with this approach to the genre, the vocalist hitting notes so low they sound like a death rattle at times, while always maintaining the attitude needed to keep the listener’s blood pumping. Omaga Diatribe’s music lets the tiger out of the cage and is all the better for it.
Beyond the musicianship on display here, Omega Diatribe have sidestepped another potential pitfall of the genre: the production. When you’re using such low notes in your guitar parts, giving them impact is a challenge. Low guitars can often sound like a distant bassy rattle, ruining the effect of the riffs. Fortunately the band are well up to this challenge, and the production is stellar. Even when their sound is at its most chaotic, every instrument comes through cleanly and when the band is in riff mode, the guitars punch like Tyson. The production has clearly had a lot of love and thought put into it and it shows in the whole album, from the most crippling riffs to the ominous atmospherics and woozy Terence McKenna sound samples.
Omega Diatribe have written a winner here. Fans of Meshuggah will be pleased, but the band deserve to be taken on their own terms. Their destructive grooves give the EP savage impact and the entire album makes me feel like Daath made me feel first eight years ago. You can listen to scorching single “Hydrozoan Periods” below, and to Abstract Ritual in full on Omega Diatribe’s Bandcamp.